I find myself once again in London; this enchanting, confounding, enigmatic chimera of a city which long ago won my heart. It's a city of multiple exposures: layers of time that can be sensed around every mass of concrete and brick, along every twist of pavement and cobble-stoned street. Being in London is rather like being in a time machine on the blink; with pieces of yourself deposited in different periods at once.
This time, a large part of me has been firmly plonked down in the Victorian period.
There is an exhibit currently running at the Tate Britain: "Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde". Below is the cover of my copy of the catalogue.
It was gorgeous.
The exhibit was mainly made up of paintings, but there were also textiles, tapestries, a stunning knotted rug, books from William Morris' Kelmscott Press including a drool-worthy edition of "The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer,"examples of stained glass, a clavichord, a few samples of furniture, and Morris' lovely seventeenth century four poster bed with a spread, curtains, and pelmet (similar to a valance hung round the top of the bed) all of which were designed and embroidered by May Morris, William's daughter who had her father's genius for both design and execution of beautiful decorative work.
It is inspiring what the Pre-Raphaelites set out to do and actually accomplished. Walking through the exhibit, thinking about how they rejected the soul and beauty destroying industrial revolution, it was impossible not to think of our own times, and of the many banksters, Conservative politicians, and their ilk running about on the streets and in buildings and office towers not far away.
As a tonic to such thoughts, I also bought a copy of the Penguin's "Christina Rossetti: Selected Poems" from the gallery shop. I'm sure I have many of these poems in other anthologies, but it is nice to have them in a book of their own.
Later on my wanderings down Charing Cross Road, known for its second hand book shops, I stumbled upon a delightful shop selling antiquarian books, maps, prints, and documents called "Notions Antiquaria." It's run by Tracey Brett, daughter of the man who established it in the 1970's. It's a charming shop that transported me to times past. I was taken by an Arthur Rackham engraving from an early edition of Peter Pan, which is now tucked away in my suitcase. It's titled "Looking very undancy indeed."
Tomorrow I head home. Which I'm always glad about. It's nice to have some mementoes of London - past and present - going with me. As well as thoughts inspired by what I saw, and the reminder that - in spite of how it often seems - the power of beauty and wonder are enduring and can shape so much of the world around us.